"We have to fight really really hard to make the drastic change we need.”
Greetings and welcome to another episode of 10 Words or Less, in which I ask brief questions, and request brief answers, of interesting people. Today’s guest is a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group who focuses on food and agriculture policy. (“My old job,” as Bill Maher often cracks.) Remember, the 10-words thing is a goal, not a rule, so please, no counting.
Name Kari Hamerschlag
Born when, where Washington D.C., Nov. 28, 1963
Anything unusual about the circumstances? “My mom’s doctor had just been attending to Jackie Kennedy.” [For you young kids out there, Kari was born 5 days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.]
Residence now “Oakland, Calif.”
A formative event early on “Living in Switzerland from ages 11 to 15, among many different cultures and languages.”
Someone outside your family who influenced you “Gary Hart. I worked for him when I was a junior in high school, and later worked as a volunteer on his presidential campaign. He got me started in politics.”
Something that helps you be effective in your job “The understanding that it takes persistence and a long time to make the kind of change we’re working for.”
A habit you’re trying to change “Negative thinking.”
Spicy, salty, sweet, creamy: Pick two “Sweet and creamy.”
Grass fed/sustainably raised, or vegetarian? “Vegetarian, but I do eat fish, sustainably raised.”
Do you have any food issues? “No, I cook a lot and eat really healthy.”
Do you believe that food addiction exists? “Sure. Just like alcohol addiction, I don’t have much experience with it, but I’ve experienced sugar cravings, so I could see how that’s addictive.”
In broadest terms, the first thing that needs to change “Get corporate money out of politics and government.”
Some common ground you share with opponents? “Our desire to keep agriculture thriving into the future, and to protect the land that is being used to grow food.”
Why is the East Bay such a food-activism hotbed? “It brings together tremendous interest in sustainable, organic farming, healthy food, food justice, and urban farming. We also have great pioneers like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan as well as organizations leading the way like People’s Grocery, City Slickers Farm and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
What percentage of your food do you grow? “In the summer, about 10 percent probably.”
What don’t people understand? That industrial farming creates tremendous water pollution and that we need to pay more for our food if we want to make sure all the people in the system are rewarded fairly.
What don’t people understand about the farm bill? “That it is tremendously inequitable and that we have to fight really really hard to make the drastic change we need.”
In a perfect world, name three ways it would be changed “It should subsidize only farms that protect our soil, air and water. It should redirect the billions of dollars spent subsidizing profitable mega farms into programs that create healthy, local and sustainable food systems. It should invest much more in programs that dramatically increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.”
Will a farm bill pass this year? “I’m probably in the minority. but I think there’s a good chance.”
The one thing you wish everyone would get right? “Eat more fruits and vegetables.”